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Newsline - June 10, 1997




ZYUGANOV TO DEMAND INVESTIGATION INTO ALLEGED DOCUMENT ON DUMA DISSOLUTION

Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov says he will demand a parliamentary investigation into alleged plans to dissolve the State Duma, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 9 June. The pro-communist newspaper Sovetskaya Rossiya on 7 June published extracts from a document allegedly circulating among President Boris Yeltsin's advisers. The document suggests waging a media campaign to discredit the Duma's activities and seeking "moral support" for disbanding the Duma from foreign leaders at the June G-7 summit in Denver. The document also advocates filing appeals in the Constitutional Court to undermine the Duma's legitimacy and eventually issuing a presidential decree saying new parliamentary elections will be held only if the government has enough money. Speaking to RFE/RL, Sergei Shakhrai, Yeltsin's representative in the Constitutional Court, neither confirmed nor denied the authenticity of the document.

NEMTSOV MEETS WITH JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER

Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov met with Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto on 10 June and delivered a personal letter from Yeltsin inviting Hashimoto to visit Russia later this year, according to Russian media and Japan's Kyodo news agency. Hashimoto said he will discuss the possibility of visiting Russia when he sees Yeltsin at the G-7 conference in Denver, Colorado, later this month. Nemtsov received assurances that loans worth $2 billion that Japan granted to the Soviet Union would be restructured. Japanese Finance Minister Hiroshi Mitsuzuka said Japan will back Russia's bid to join the Paris Club as a creditor country.

FEDERATION COUNCIL RATIFIES RUSSIAN-BELARUSIAN TREATY

The Federation Council on 10 June ratified the Russian-Belarusian union treaty and charter by a vote of 144 to zero with three abstentions, ITAR-TASS reported. The State Duma ratified the documents on 6 June.

PRIMORE POLITICAL ELITE DENOUNCE FEDERAL POLICIES

The Primorskii Krai administration has claimed that Moscow officials are "destabilizing" the situation in the krai, RFE/RL's correspondent in Vladivostok reported on 9 June. It has also accused the Moscow-based media of carrying out an "information terror" against the krai authorities. Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko says federal debts to Primore have caused persistent energy crises there. He continues to denounce proposed increases in local energy tariffs. Federal officials say the energy crises have been caused by a two-tier pricing system imposed by the Primore authorities. Favored local enterprises pay very low rates for electricity, while federal-funded organizations in the krai are charged exorbitant rates. Nazdratenko was elected governor in December 1995 and has said he will not leave office unless he loses a popular referendum or early gubernatorial election.

OPPOSITION POLITICIANS, SOME GOVERNORS SUPPORT NAZDRATENKO

Former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed has sent a telegram of support to Nazdratenko, asking the Primore governor to "stand firm" against pressure from the federal authorities, RFE/RL's correspondent in Vladivostok reported on 9 June. According to the krai administration's press service, several governors, including Eduard Rossel of Sverdlovsk, have also called Nazdratenko to express their support. Meanwhile, the editors-in-chief of Sovetskaya Rossiya and the opposition weekly Zavtra published an appeal on Nazdratenko's behalf in the 10 June issue of Sovetskaya Rossiya. The appeal said Nazdratenko had in effect been illegally removed from office when extensive powers were transferred to Yeltsin's representative in Primore, Viktor Kondratov (see RFE/RL Newsline, 9 June 1997). The appeal also called on Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev to support Nazdratenko, whom it described as "a Federation Council member who is being persecuted by the [federal] authorities."

CHUBAIS ISSUES INCOME DECLARATION

First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais on 10 June issued a declaration saying he earned 1.71 billion rubles ($297,000) in 1996, ITAR-TASS reported. Of that sum, Chubais reportedly earned 39 million rubles while serving as Yeltsin's chief of staff from July to December and the remainder for "lectures, consultations, salary, and income from stock transactions while working as the director-general of the Center for the Defense of Private Property." Chubais also declared bank accounts at Menatep (120 million rubles) and Most Bank (695 million rubles), a Suzuki car worth 212 million rubles, a two-room apartment in Moscow worth 28 million rubles, and land outside Moscow worth 35 million rubles. In January, Chubais paid some $92,000 in taxes after the weekly Novaya gazeta reported that he had evaded taxes on $278,000 earned during the 1996 presidential campaign.

YELTSIN ENDORSES DEFENSE MINISTER'S REFORM PLANS

At a meeting with Defense Minister Igor Sergeev, Yeltsin approved a document outlining proposed reforms in the military, Russian and Western news agencies reported on 9 June. Sergeev vowed to stop bureaucratic waste and use scarce funds toward improving the troops' combat readiness. He said 60% of funds allocated to the military went to cover maintenance costs, such as the payment of allowances and the purchase of provisions. Sergeev added that money could be saved by cutting the number of installations and depots, reducing the duplication of responsibilities, and selling off unprofitable enterprises run by the military. Yeltsin appointed Sergeev in May to replace Igor Rodionov, who, according to the president, had made little progress in reforming the military. Many Russian commentators say Yeltsin himself is to blame for the slow pace of military reform.

MOST OFFICERS PLAN TO LEAVE ARMED FORCES VOLUNTARILY

Most Russian officers say they will leave the armed forces when their current contracts expire, Interfax reported on 8 June, citing Defense Ministry sources. Because of persistent wage arrears, an estimated 61% of officers suffer from chronic financial problems and 29% are living beneath the poverty line. The five-year contracts signed by officers after post-Soviet Russia set up its armed forces in 1992 will start to expire later this year. Yeltsin has charged a government commission chaired by First Deputy Prime Minister Chubais with drafting proposals to "stabilize the financial and economic situation of the armed forces."

CIS INTERPARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY ADOPTS RESOLUTIONS ON TRANSDNIESTER, ABKHAZIA

At a plenary session in St. Petersburg on 8 June, the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly adopted a resolution that approves the recent agreement between Moldova and the Transdniester breakaway region on normalizing relations and stresses that the conflict can be resolved only on the basis of recognition of Moldova's territorial integrity, according to BASA-Press on 9 June and Nezavisimaya gazeta on 10 June. The assembly also adopted another resolution calling for the implementation of the decision of the March CIS heads of state summit on broadening the mandate of the CIS peacekeeping force in Abkhazia. On 9 June, the Council of the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly held its first joint session with the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in St. Petersburg. The two bodies signed an agreement on cooperation, Interfax reported.

INGUSH VICE PRESIDENT APPOINTED TO RUSSIAN SECURITY COUNCIL

Yeltsin appointed Lt.-Gen. Boris Agapov as deputy secretary of the Russian Security Council on 9 June, Russian and Western agencies reported. Agapov, who is a former border guard general, is Ivan Rybkin's sixth deputy. Rybkin said he will be responsible for "crisis management," while Security Council press secretary Igor Ignatev said Agapov will focus on border disputes in the "post-Soviet space."

FATE OF ST. PETERSBURG REFERENDUM IN DOUBT

The St. Petersburg electoral commission has decided to withdraw its request that the city's legislature set a date for a referendum on the performance of St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 June. Aleksandr Garusov, who heads the commission, explained that the St. Petersburg City Court recently declared the registration of the initiative group supporting the referendum illegal. The court ruled that one of the proposed referendum questions was improperly phrased. Although Garusov described the court's reasoning as "not convincing," he said his commission was obliged to abide by the court ruling. In May, Yakovlev's opponents collected more than 250,000 signatures in favor of holding the referendum.

CASE AGAINST NOVODVORSKAYA CLOSED

The criminal case against Valeriya Novodvorskaya, leader of the radical Democratic Union, has been closed, Moskovskii komsomolets reported on 10 June. Novodvorskaya was accused of inciting ethnic hatred in two newspaper articles published in 1993 and 1994 and in a 1994 interview on Estonian television. In particular, she had suggested that the typical Russian is afflicted with a "manic-depressive psychosis" and that "laziness, poverty, spinelessness, and slavery" are characteristics of the Russian mentality. Although similar charges against her were dropped in September 1995, procurators opened a second case based on the same alleged crime in April 1996. Novodvorskaya's defenders argued that she was being persecuted for remarks intended as political satire. The case was finally brought to trial in September 1996, but judges referred the case for further investigation the following month (see OMRI Daily Digest, 27 September and 23 October 1996).

EXPERTS SAY OIL, GAS INDUSTRY CAUSES WIDESPREAD POLLUTION

Experts appearing before the Government Ecological Committee announced on 9 June that widespread "environmental violations" in the country's gas and oil industry has polluted large swathes of Russian territory, ITAR-TASS reported. The specialists said soil around most oil and gas drilling operations was contaminated and that in oil-rich Tyumen Oblast alone, pollution has caused grazing pastures to shrink by 12.5% and has contaminated some 30,000 hectares of forest. The experts also said some 70 million cubic meters of untreated waste water was dumped annually into Russia's rivers and lakes. In Tyumen and Tomsk Oblasts as well as in Khanty-Mansi and Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrugs, water pollution exceeds accepted levels by ten times, the experts noted.

TRETYAKOV GALLERY SHORT OF FUNDS

Valentin Rodionov, the director of Moscow's Tretyakov Gallery, says state subsidies to the museum are half of what it requires, Interfax reported on 9 June. Rodionov said the museum needs 118 billion rubles (more than $20 million) a year to cover costs. But he noted that the museum received only 15 billion rubles of the 50 billion rubles allocated to it last year. Also on 9 June, Moscow's Mayor Yurii Luzhkov said he would ask Yeltsin to ensure "proper" funding for the gallery. Luzhkov said he would head a new foundation to support the Tretyakov, ITAR-TASS reported. The 141-year-old Tretyakov reopened to the public two years ago after renovations that took 10 years.

STAVROPOL GOVERNOR, TEREK COSSACKS DISAGREE OVER TERRITORIAL CLAIMS

At a press conference on 9 June, Stavropol Krai governor Aleksandr Chernogorov expressed disapproval of the stated intention of the Terek Cossacks to raise the issue of the return to Stavropol of two raions transferred to the Chechen-Ingush ASSR in 1958, ITAR-TASS reported. Chernogorov suggested he considered Stavropol's claims on the two raions are valid, but he noted it is Moscow's prerogative to rule on territorial divisions within Russia on the basis of its constitution.




RUSSIA SEEKS PEACEFUL SETTLEMENT TO AFGHAN SITUATION

Russia Deputy Foreign Minister Viktor Posuvalyuk has confirmed he met with a representative of Afghanistan's Taliban during his recent official visit to Pakistan, Interfax reported. Posuvalyuk said he told the representative that there is no military solution to the problems in Afghanistan. He added that he encouraged political dialogue between the various groups in Afghanistan. Posuvalyuk also positively assessed his meetings with Pakistani officials, saying the results showed that Moscow and Islamabad have "possibilities to cooperate..., to reconcile the Afghans, and to achieve a settlement." Posuvalyuk confirmed this was not the first time Russian officials had met with the Taliban.

U.S.-UZBEK MILITARY EXERCISES FINISH

The Ultra Balance-97 military exercises were completed on 9 June, according to Interfax. The four-day maneuvers took place in the Fergana Valley 80 kilometers from the Uzbek-Tajik border in accordance with a 1995 bilateral agreement between the Uzbek Defense Ministry and the U.S. Defense Department. U.S. officers also inspected sites in Uzbekistan and Kazakstan where an 11-country military exercise is scheduled to be held in late September under the Partnership for Peace program.

SENTENCES REDUCED FOR KYRGYZ JOURNALISTS

A municipal court on 10 June reduced the sentences of four Kyrgyz journalists charged with libel, RFE/RL correspondents in Bishkek reported. The four are from the Kyrgyz independent weekly newspaper Res Publica. Editor-in-Chief Zamira Sydykova's sentence was reduced from 18 months in prison to one year in a penal colony. Aleksandr Alyanchikov had also been given an 18-months jail sentence, which has been changed to a one-year suspended sentence. The decision to bar journalists Bektash Shamshiev and Marina Sivasheva from practicing journalism for 18 months was also overturned. Yrysbek Omurzakov, who is on trial for slandering the director of a Bishkek factory, has been released from detention until his case comes to court again.

KYRGYZ SHARES ALLOTTED TO LOW-INCOME GROUPS

President Askar Akayev has signed a decree whereby 8% of shares in leading enterprises will be distributed free of charge among pensioners, invalids, World War Two veterans, and low-income families, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported on 9 June. Shares will include those in leading companies scheduled to be privatized such as Kyrgyztelekom, Kyrgyzenergo, the national airline, and the two largest publishing houses, Uchkun and Akyl. The measure is intended to "ensure social justice."

U.S. COMPANY TO SUPPLY FARM MACHINERY TO TURKMENISTAN

The U.S. company Saba has signed a contract with Turkmenselkhoztekhnika to provide farming vehicles and irrigation equipment to Turkmenistan, according to ITAR-TASS on 9 June. Turkmenistan will pay for the machinery with a loan worth almost $100 million that the country received from the U.S. Export-Import Bank. The U.S. company John Deere also supplies Turkmenistan with farming equipment.

ARMENIAN SUPREME COURT HANDS DOWN SUSPENDED SENTENCE IN "25 SEPTEMBER" TRIAL

Dashnak party member Kim Balayan has received a two-year suspended sentence on charges of inciting mass disturbances, Noyan Tapan reported on 9 June. The charges refer to Balayan's alleged role in the 25 September attack on the Armenian parliament building, which occurred shortly after last year's disputed presidential election. Five other defendants were amnestied on 5 June after receiving sentences of between 18 and 30 months (see RFE/RL Newsline, 9 June 1997).

PREPARATIONS FOR INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON ABKHAZIA ALREADY UNDER WAY?

In his weekly radio address, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said on 9 June that "hard work is under way" to convene an international conference on resolving the Abkhaz conflict, according to Interfax. Shevardnadze said Russia could organize such a meeting in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. He also reiterated that "Georgia's president and authorities have done everything to ensure the peaceful resolution of the conflict taking Russia's interests into account" but without success, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 10 June. Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba was scheduled to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Evgenii Primakov on 9 June, according to NTV. However, there have been no reports on whether the meeting took place.




COUNCIL OF EUROPE'S PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY CRITICIZES BELARUS

Leni Fischer, chairwoman of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, told journalists in St. Petersburg on 9 June that Belarus must abide by the council's rules if it wants to join that body. Fischer made her comments after the CE Parliamentary Assembly held its first joint session with the Council of the Interparliamentary Assembly of the Commonwealth of Independent States. Meanwhile, Belapan reported on 9 June that the CE Parliamentary Assembly has invited members of the Belarusian parliament that was dissolved last year to attend its opening session in Strasbourg on 23 June. The parliament was disbanded by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka following the controversial November 1996 referendum, which increased his executive powers and extended his term in office. The CE responded by suspending Belarus' guest status and criticizing the changes to the country's constitution.

UKRAINE, IRAN SIGN ECONOMIC AGREEMENT

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati and his Ukrainian counterpart, Hennady Udovenko, signed an economic cooperation treaty in Kyiv on 9 June and pledged to strengthen bilateral ties. Velayati, who is on a three-day visit to Ukraine, told journalists that a top priority for both countries is the development of relations "in the sphere of energy, oil, and gas." Iran wants to help Ukraine complete both an oil terminal near its Black Sea port of Odessa and a pipeline linking the terminal with an existing line that transports oil to Europe. Velayati also visited the Antonov airplane factory, which recently unveiled a new turboprop passenger plane to be produced in Iran under Ukrainian license. Udovenko said Kyiv attaches "great importance" to its relations with Teheran. He predicted that trade between the two countries, which currently totals $100 million a year, will rapidly increase.

UKRAINE TO BUILD TWO NEW NUCLEAR REACTORS

Nuclear Safety Minister Yuri Kostenko says Kyiv will build two new nuclear reactors regardless of whether they are financed by a loan from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. ITAR-TASS on 9 June quoted Kostenko as saying the reactors will be built at the Khmelnitsky and Rivne nuclear power plants, in western Ukraine, even if the EBRD decides against granting Ukraine a loan to help cover the $1.2 billion project. The new reactors will replace power lost by closing the damaged Chornobyl nuclear power plant by the year 2000. Kostenko said talks with the EBRD last week were "constructive." The bank is expected to announce a decision on the loan later this month.

UKRAINIAN, MOLDOVAN PRIME MINISTERS FAIL TO REACH AGREEMENT ON TRANSITING GOODS

Pavel Lazarenko and Ion Ciubuc, meeting in Chernovitsy on 6 June, failed to resolve the problem of Moldovan exports transiting Ukraine. Infotag reported on 9 June that the two premiers will discuss the problem again during Lazarenko's scheduled visit to Chisinau on 22 June. In April, Ukraine imposed a tax deposit on Moldovan goods transiting its territory in order to prevent the illegal sale of the goods in Ukraine (see RFE/RL Newsline, 9 June 1997).

BALTIC, NORDIC DEFENSE HEADS MEET IN ESTONIA

Defense Ministers Andrus Oovel (Estonia) and Ceslovas Stankevicius (Lithuania) and Defense Ministry State Secretary Edgars Rinkevics (Latvia) have expressed the desire that NATO take "clear and concrete decisions" on all countries seeking membership and issue guarantees that those states not included in the first wave of expansion will have opportunities to join later, BNS and ETA reported. They were meeting with the defense ministers of Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland on the Estonian island of Saaremaa on 9 June. Denmark's Hans Haekkerup said his country will pressure NATO for admittance of the Baltics as new members. Oovel commented that the Baltic States are hoping Norway will assume a position alongside Denmark. The meeting is to conclude with the signing of a joint communique on 10 June. Latvian Defense Minister Talavs Jundzis decided not to attend the gathering because he was only recently appointed to that post.

LATVIA TO REPAIR WWII MONUMENT

Riga Mayor Andris Berzins told journalists on 9 June that the local authorities will repair the damage caused to the controversial World War II victory monument in a blast three days earlier (see RFE/RL Newsline, 6 and 9 June 1997), BNS and Reuters reported. One person was killed in the blast, and much of the base of the monument was shattered. Berzins said that a commission of experts will be set up to assess the damage but added that the city may have to appeal to the state for funds. He also ruled out demolishing the monument, which is loathed by many Latvians as a symbol of the Soviet occupation of their country. Russia had strongly criticized the bombing and said that Moscow would judge Latvia's interest in developing bilateral relations by its response to the incident.

LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENTARY CHAIRMAN SHARPLY CRITICIZES RYBKIN STATEMENT

ITAR-TASS reports that Vytautas Landsbergis has strongly condemned Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin's recent statement that Russia plans to increase its "defense capability" in the Baltic region (see RFE/RL Newsline, 9 June 1997). Rybkin made the comment during a visit to a naval base in Kaliningrad on 6 June. Landsbergis told journalists in Vilnius three days later that any intention to build up the military in the oblast would contradict the "spirit and the content" of the recently signed Founding Act between Russia and NATO. He also noted that Kaliningrad already has a large "offensive army of paratroopers, missiles, navy, and nuclear weapons."

LITHUANIA RECEIVES INVESTMENT GRADE RATING

The Finance Ministry announced on 9 June that Lithuania has received its first investment grade rating from an international agency, BNS and dpa reported. Previously, the country had received only speculative ratings. The U.S.-based Standard and Poor's put Lithuania's long-term debts at BBB- and long-term debts in local currency at BBB+. Finance Minister Algirdas Semeta told journalists in Vilnius that Standard and Poor's rating comes ahead of a new emission of Lithuanian treasury bills in mid-July, to be handled by the U.S. bank J. P. Morgan. He added that the new rating is expected to substantially reduce Lithuania's borrowing costs.

POPE PRAISES DOCTORS WHO REFUSE TO PERFORM ABORTIONS

Pope John Paul II on 9 June praised Polish doctors who refuse to perform abortions, Reuters reported. The Pope said at a ceremony at a Cracow hospital that he rejoiced that most medical staff cared for life and avoided actions leading to its destruction. "With my whole heart I praise the doctors, nurses, and all Polish health care workers who place the Divine law 'Thou shalt not kill' above what human law allows," the Pope said. Poland's parliament approved a law last October that allows women to have abortions until the 12th week of pregnancy if they cannot afford to have a child or have other personal difficulties. The Constitutional Court, however, has ruled that parts of the law are unconstitutional.

POLISH PREMIER IN SPAIN

Spanish Parliamentary President Federico Trillo told journalists after meeting with Polish Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz in Madrid on 9 June that his country supports Poland's drive to join the EU and NATO. Both leaders agreed that the process will be gradual. The previous day, Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar said after his meeting with Cimoszewicz that he considers Poland a "serious" candidate to be invited to join NATO at the Madrid summit in July. Cimoszewicz said Poland's NATO membership will require the country to spend $150-200 million annually during the next 10 years to revamp its armed forces.

CZECH CABINET MEETS AHEAD OF CONFIDENCE VOTE

The Czech government met in an extraordinary session on 9 June to discuss budget cuts and other austerity measures, Czech media reported. The need to make such cuts was agreed by the three coalition parties at the end of May as part of a stabilization program aimed at bolstering the Czech crown and curing the ailing economy. The coalition Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) had demanded that the government approve the cuts before the vote of confidence scheduled for 10 June. At the government meeting, the ministers agreed to slash the budget by a total of 20 billion crowns ($625 million). CTK quotes Finance Minister Ivan Pilip as saying the budget will be cut proportionately in all sectors. However, he added the government is making exceptions in some areas, including defense in light of the Czech Republic's anticipated entry into NATO. KDU-CSL Chairman Josef Lux said he was satisfied with the results of the meeting.

SLOVAK PRESIDENT COMMENTS ON PREMIER'S "VULGAR" STATEMENTS

Michal Kovac told Radio Twist on 9 June that Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's recent offensive statements about Kovac and opposition leaders testify to a lack of manners and political standards. At a 5 June rally of his Movement for a Democratic Slovakia, Meciar called Kovac a "horse on his last legs who may be hanging around for another seven-and-a-half months at the presidential palace." Kovac said he would not comment on Meciar's statements in detail because they are not "worthy" to be dealt with by the president. He added that Slovakia does not need vulgar statements about elected state officials but rather "decency and respect."

CZECH FOREIGN MINISTER IN HUNGARY

Josef Zieleniec and his Hungarian counterpart, Laszlo Kovacs, agreed on 9 June in Budapest to coordinate policies if they are invited to join NATO next month, Hungarian media reported. President Arpad Goencz told Zieleniec that Hungarians and Czechs "are partners, not rivals" in their bid for EU and NATO membership. The current successful regional cooperation between Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Poland is helping build stability in Central Europe, he added. During his one-day visit, Zieleniec was also received by Prime Minister Gyula Horn, Defense Minister Gyoergy Keleti, and Parliamentary Speaker Zoltan Gal.




ALBANIAN SOCIALIST LEADER PLEDGES TO REPAY PYRAMID MONEY

Some 12,000 people welcomed Fatos Nano in Vlora on 9 June, Dita Informacion reports. He told a rally he will try to find and return the money people lost in fraudulent pyramid schemes, but he did not say how he will do this. Nano is one of the Socialist Party's candidates in the southern town. Meanwhile, local rebel leader Zani Caushi has announced he wants to run as a candidate for the Socialists. The deadline for registering candidates expired on 9 June, however. President Sali Berisha's Democratic Party has charged that there are close links between the southern rebels and the Socialists.

UPDATE ON ATTEMPTED ASSASSINATION OF ALBANIAN PRESIDENT

The Durres Prosecutor-General's Office says the man who tried to kill Berisha on 4 June does not have ties to the extreme left but does have psychological problems, Dita Informacion reported on 10 June. Democratic Party legislator Azem Hajdari accused the Socialists of being behind the assassination attempt but could not prove it. The office also said that Ceta had been found guilty of stuffing 100 ballot papers for the Democratic Party into a ballot box during last year's parliamentary elections. Relatives described the man as "ignorant [and]...without political motives." Gazeta Shqiptare adds that the Deputy Prosecutor-General Gani Dizdari said there is no proof that Ceta was paid for the assassination attempt, as secret service chief Arben Karkini has charged.

ITALIAN COMMUNISTS WANT INVESTIGATION OF ITALY'S ROLE IN ALBANIA

The reformed Italian communist party has drafted a bill on setting up a parliamentary commission to investigate the involvement of Italian banks and companies in Albanian pyramid schemes and the arms trade. Former Ambassador to Albania Paolo Foresti, who was fired recently for obstructing the work of the OSCE there, would also come under investigation. Rome's new man in Tirana will be Marcello Spatafori, whose last posting was in Canberra, Indipendent reported on 10 June.

REGIONAL DISPUTES SURFACE AT BALKAN CONFERENCE

An Albanian representative told a gathering of Balkan diplomats in the Greek port of Salonica on 9 June that the current instability in his country does not threaten the region. He added, however, that unresolved minority questions like Kosovo could ultimately destabilize the Balkans. The long-standing dispute between Skopje and Sofia over whether Macedonian is a separate language also came up. Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova told reporters after meeting with Macedonian Foreign Minister Blagoj Handziski that they spoke in "our language," which underscores the Bulgarian view that Macedonian is simply a dialect of Bulgarian. Yugoslav Foreign Minister Milan Milutinovic said the conference made progress in economic, political, and security affairs, but he added that talk about setting up a permanent Balkan security organization is "premature." Greek media spoke of a "Greek-Russian initiative for the region" that would include setting up a Balkan telecommunications center, BETA reported.

CROATIAN OPPOSITION CANDIDATE CRITICIZES POLICE

Opposition parties in Zagreb on 9 June blasted the authorities for the way they handled President Franjo Tudjman's trip to Vukovar and the attack on opposition candidate Vlado Gotovac (see RFE/RL Newsline, 9 June 1997). Opposition spokesmen said Tudjman used tax-payers' money "for his self-promotion...in a vain parade to satisfy an old dictator." The opposition also charged that the police were not tough enough in dealing with army Capt. Tomislav Brzovic, who struck Gotovac on the head last week. Gotovac said that Brzovic's attack was aimed at removing the opposition candidate from the race, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Zagreb. Pro-government media have portrayed Brzovic as angry and drunk at the time of the attack, while observers charge he is a well-known agent of the ruling party.

BELGRADE, TEHRAN RESUME ECONOMIC TIES

Yugoslav Foreign Trade Minister Borislav Vukovic held talks with Iranian Economic Minister Morteza Mohammad-Khan in Tehran on 9 June. No details are available. Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati told Vukovic the previous day that Iran's "sentiments have been deeply wounded by the massacre of the Bosnian people." The Yugoslav guest, for his part, said Belgrade "pays special attention to Muslim countries, notably Iran." Vukovic's visit is the first high-level contact between the two countries since the Bosnian war began in 1992. Iran was one of the staunchest supporters of the Bosnian Muslims against the Belgrade-backed Serbs.

ROUNDUP FROM FORMER YUGOSLAVIA

Michael Steiner, the international community's deputy high representative in Bosnia, said in Sarajevo on 9 June that the Bosnian Serbs will suffer financial consequences if they continue to hold up economic legislation affecting both halves of Bosnia. In Ankara, Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic and his Turkish counterpart, Suleyman Demirel, agreed that failure to enforce the Dayton agreement will affect security throughout the Balkans. In Sarajevo, representatives of the Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Islamic, and Jewish communities also called for respecting the peace treaty, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Bosnian capital. In Zagreb, the Interior Ministry slammed the UN peacekeepers in eastern Slavonia for failing to prevent the recent stoning of President Franjo Tudjman's train in Serb-held territory (see RFE/RL Newsline, 9 June 1997). And in Podgorica, parliamentary speaker Svetozar Marovic said that Serbia's proposed changes to the federal constitution are aimed at marginalizing Montenegro.

SECOND NO-CONFIDENCE MOTION DEFEATED IN ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT

By a vote of 268 to 152, the governing coalition on 9 June easily defeated a second motion of no confidence moved by two opposition parties after Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea had submitted his reform program to the parliament (see RFE/RL Newsline, 4 June 1997). Ciorbea mockingly noted that the two formations that proposed the motion--the Party of Social Democracy in Romania and the Party of Romanian National Unity--have "secured a place in history" for submitting two no-confidence motions within three days, RFE/RL Bucharest bureau reported.

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT CLARIFIES STATEMENTS ON NATO MEMBERSHIP

In a statement released on 9 June, Emil Constantinescu's office said the president has "never expressed any doubt about Romania's ability to meet the obligations deriving from NATO integration. "The statement clarified that, in the wake of U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's comments at the recent meeting of NATO foreign minster in Portugal, Constantinescu had expressed only "his understanding for the general view point that all NATO members need to have stable economies before being integrated," Radio Bucharest reported. The statement emphasized that the president has always expressed the opinion that Romania "meets all necessary criteria for immediate admission into NATO" and is a "pillar of stability and provider of security in the region." Meanwhile, Senate Chairman Petre Roman on 9 June began a five day visit to the U.S. to promote Romania's entry into NATO.

ROMANIAN AIRLINE TO BE RESTRUCTURED

Transportation Minister Traian Basescu announced on 9 June that the TAROM national airline is to undergo rapid restructuring. The company will sale outdated Soviet-made aircraft and will dismiss or assign to other jobs personnel involved in their maintenance. TAROM will also seek to reach cooperation accords with foreign airlines.

FORMER MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT ON POLITICAL SITUATION

Mircea Snegur has said he hopes an alliance of the right-wing forces, to be called the Democratic Convention of Moldova, will be set up on 23 June, the day marking the seventh anniversary of the country's independence. Snegur, who is now chairman of the Party of Revival and Accord, wrote in an "Appeal to the Nation" recently published in Luceafarul that, six months after Petru Lucinschi took over as president, "only the naive" still believe that Lucinschi will keep his electoral promises. He noted that the president has not submitted to the parliament one single legislative initiative promoting reform. Snegur also said that Lucinschi is continuing the tactics he employed during Snegur's own presidency, when the incumbent president was chairman of the parliament, Infotag reported on 9 June.




NATO Is About Far More Than Russia


by Paul Goble

Both supporters and opponents of NATO expansion have tended to discuss the issue in terms of its impact on Russia. As a result, the increasingly heated debate has failed to pay much attention to the other purposes that the Western alliance has served and the purposes that the prospect of expansion has promoted.

Supporters of expansion typically argue that the Western alliance should expand now to provide an insurance policy for countries in Eastern Europe in the event that Russia regains its strength and reverts to the often aggressive ways of the past. Opponents of any growth in the alliance, on the other hand, have suggested that the Russian threat to Europe has disappeared along with the Soviet Union and that any expansion would undermine Russian reform at home and Russian cooperation abroad.

Unfortunately, the heavy focus on Russia has obscured the multiple reasons that lay behind NATO's founding in 1949, the multiple roles it has played and continues to play in a variety of spheres, and the enormous contribution that the prospect of expansion has made to laying the foundation for a more stable and peaceful Eastern Europe. As more than one commentator has observed, NATO was established to keep the Russians out of Europe, the Americans in, and the Germans down. During the Cold War, attention to the first often obscured the other two. Indeed, by preventing Soviet expansionism, NATO helped its member countries to focus on domestic developments rather than on defense, as they often had in the past.

But during the discussions on forming the alliance, most of its future members were far more worried about the two other factors: the possibilities of a resurgence of German militarism and an early U.S. exit from Europe, as had happened after World War I.

By rooting Germany in a broader security arrangement, NATO has made an important contribution to the rapprochement of Berlin and Paris and to the construction of a more united Europe. And by creating an institution that linked the U.S.'s fate to Europe's, NATO has served to limit the reemergence of traditional isolationism in the United States.

But NATO has, in fact, done far more than that. By promoting cooperation and interoperability among the military and political elites of its members, NATO has allowed them to explore their common interests and overcome their past suspicions. In times of crisis, this ongoing cooperation has allowed the West to act, as in the Gulf War, more quickly and easily than would otherwise have been the case.

Moreover it has helped promote democracy in member states such as Turkey and Spain. It has integrated the military industries of its members in ways that limit the ability of any one of them to act unilaterally. And it has even contributed to the economic growth of all by eliminating many of the fears behind national protectionism.

More recently, the possibility of the expansion of the alliance has made yet another contribution to European stability. It has prompted the countries that hope to be included in the alliance to try to resolve some of their historical quarrels. Among the pairs of countries that have done so are Hungary and Romania, Poland and Lithuania, and Ukraine and Romania.

And finally, because NATO leaders have made it clear that any country hoping to join must demonstrate a commitment to democracy, human rights, and a free market, all the countries seeking admission have done more in this direction than their past records on those issues might have led anyone to expect. Historians may ultimately conclude that those developments are among NATO's greatest achievements. But this particular contribution of the alliance will survive only if its current members demonstrate that they will admit new members not only now but also in the future.


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